FEED Scholar Wins Best Descriptive Research Award at Campus & University Level: “Level & Health Risk Assessment of Arsenic in Milkfish (Chanos chanos Forsskal) Cultured in West Bay of Laguna Lake”

Original article below dated 20 Jan 2019. Updated today, 29 Feb 2019:

“On 28 Feb 2019, at 09:40, Lowell Bernados <lowell.bernados@gmail.com> wrote:

Good morning mam! I also won the University Students’ Research Congress 2019 yesterday, Feb 28. It is the final level of research congress. It means I both won the campus level and university level. I competed against 7 other URS campuses including Antipolo, Binangonan, Cainta, Cardona, Morong, Pililla and Taytay. Again, it would not be possible without your assistance. Always grateful for your help. Thank you so much and more power!”

What an incredible researcher you are Lowell, keep up your amazing,  inspired and productive aims – we are very proud of you and look forward to being a part of your continued success and growth! – FEED Board, 29 Feb 2019

LOWELL.jpg20 January 2019, Thesis Study by Lowell C. Bernados, Bachelor of Environmental Science, University of Rizal System Tanay.

I am Lowell C. Bernados, 4th Year BS Environmental Science student from University of Rizal System Tanay.

FEED’s scholarship assistance is being used to conduct my undergraduate thesis entitled “Bioaccumulation and Health Risk Assessment of Arsenic in Milkfish (Chanos chanos Forsskal) Cultured in West Bay of Laguna Lake”.

After graduating in college, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in environmental science and focus on environmental pollution and bioremediation studies on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Right now, my adviser and I are waiting for my undergraduate thesis to be completed, and I am in the process of writing the research paper before doing the final thesis defence.  Once completed, I will be joining the Campus and University Research Congress next month using said study as my entry.  My final thesis manuscript should printed by February or March, as well as the results of the research congress.

Photo taken at Laguna de Bay, which is also the location of my undergraduate thesis.

Thesis Abstract

The human health risks associated with arsenic exposure from milkfishes cultured in west bay of Laguna Lake were assessed. The levels of arsenic in water and fish samples were determined using Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry – Hydride Vapor Generation Technique. The other physicochemical properties of water were determined using HORIBA multi-parameter water quality meter.

milkfish.jpgAll of the physicochemical properties of water in all sampling sites are within the water quality standard of Class C water set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources except pH.

All of the levels of arsenic in milkfishes from all sampling sites were below 0.005 mg/kg. The computed THQ value of arsenic in milkfish in all sampling sites is less than 2.88 X 10-4. Hence, any adverse non-carcinogenic health risks were not demonstrated in this study since all the computed THQs were less than 1.

The average lifetime cancer risk value associated with consumption of milkfish in all sampling sites is less than 5.56 X 10-8. Since the computed TR value is lower than the threshold value of 1.0 X10-6, the ingestion of arsenic through the consumption of milkfish collected from the sampling sites do not pose appreciable risk of developing skin cancer during a lifetime.

About the 2019 Campus Students’ Research Congress

Held last January 28, 2019, this is an annual competition on campus where different colleges will choose a researcher to represent their research per category. I was blessed to be one of the representatives of our University of Rizal System Tanay.  The contestant who receives the highest score for the thesis manuscript and oral presentation will receive the award. Thankfully, I received the Best Descriptive Research Award, and will be representing our campus in the University Students’ Research Congress next month.

About Milkfish

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milkfish

The milkfish (Chanos chanos) is the sole living species in the family Chanidae. However, there are at least five extinct genera from the Cretaceous.

The species has many common names. The Hawaiian name for the fish is awa, and in Tahitian it is ava. It is called bangús in the Philippines, where it is popularly known as the national fish, although the National Commission for Culture and the Arts has stated that this is not the case as it has no basis in Philippine law.  In the Nauruan language, it is referred to as ibiya. Milkfish is also called bandeng or bolu in Indonesia.

bangus.jpgThe milkfish is an important seafood in Southeast Asia and some Pacific Islands. Because milkfish is notorious for being much bonier than other food fish, deboned milkfish, called “boneless bangús” in the Philippines, has become popular in stores and markets. Despite the notoriety however, many people in the Philippines continue to enjoy the fish cooked regularly or even raw – using kalamansi juice or vinegar to make kinilaw na bangus.

Milkfish aquaculture first occurred around 800 years ago in the Philippines and spread in Indonesia, Taiwan, and into the Pacific.  Traditional milkfish aquaculture relied upon restocking ponds by collecting wild fry. This led to a wide range of variability in quality and quantity between seasons and regions.

In the late 1970s, farmers first successfully spawned breeding fish. However, they were hard to obtain and produced unreliable egg viability. In 1980, the first spontaneous spawning happened in sea cages. These eggs were found to be sufficient to generate a constant supply for farms.

Farming methods

laguna.jpgFry are raised in either sea cages, large saline ponds (Philippines), or concrete tanks (Indonesia, Taiwan). Milkfish reach sexual maturity at 1.5 kg (3.3 lb), which takes five years in floating sea cages, but eight to 10 years in ponds and tanks. Once they reach 6 kg (13 lb), (eight years), 3–4 million eggs are produced each breeding cycle.  This is mainly done using natural environmental cues. However, attempts have been made using gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogue (GnRH-A) to induce spawning. Some still use the traditional wild stock method — capturing wild fry using nets. Milkfish hatcheries, like most hatcheries, contain a variety of cultures, for example, rotifers, green algae, and brine shrimp, as well as the target species. They can either be intensive or semi-intensive.  Semi-intensive methods are more profitable at US$6.67 per thousand fry in 1998, compared with $27.40 for intensive methods.  However, the experience required by labour for semi-intensive hatcheries is higher than intensive.

The Philippines has integrated nurseries with grow-out facilities and densities of about 1000/L.  The three methods of outgrowing are pond culture, pen culture, and cage culture.

Shallow ponds are found mainly in Indonesia and the Philippines. These are shallow (30–40 centimetres (12–16 in)), brackish ponds with benthic algae, usually used as feed. They are usually excavated from nipa or mangrove areas and produce about 800 kg/ha/yr. Deep ponds (2–3 m) have more stable environments and their use began in 1970. They so far have shown less susceptibility to disease than shallow ponds.

In 1979, pen culture was introduced in Laguna de Bay, which had high primary production. This provided an excellent food source. Once this ran out, fertilizer was applied. They are susceptible to disease.

Cage culture occurs in coastal bays.  These consist of large cages suspended in open water. They rely largely on natural sources of food.

bangusharvest.jpgMost food is natural (known as lab-lab) or a combination of phytoplankton and macroalgae.  Traditionally, this was made on site; food is now made commercially to order. Harvest occurs when the individuals are 20–40 cm long (250–500 g in weight). Partial harvests remove uniformly sized individuals with seine nets or gill nets. Total harvest removes all individuals and leads to a variety of sizes. Forced harvest happens when an environmental problem occurs, such as depleted oxygen due to algal blooms, and all stock is removed. Possible parasites include nematodes, copepods, protozoa, and helminths. Many of these are treatable with chemicals and antibiotics.

Processing and marketing

Traditional post-harvest processing include smoking, drying, and fermenting. Bottling, canning, and freezing are of recent origin. Demand has been steadily increasing since 1950.  In 2005, 595,000 tonnes were harvested worth US$616 million.

A trend toward value-added products is occurring.  In recent years, the possibility of using milkfish juveniles as bait for tuna long-lining has started to be investigated, opening up new markets for fry hatcheries.

Golden bangus

On April 21, 2012, a Filipino fisherman donated a milkfish with yellowish coloring to the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, which was later on called the “golden bangus”.  However, the fish soon died, allegedly because of a lower level of oxygen in the pond to which it was transferred.

Plan to breed ‘golden’ bangus dies with lone specimen

Source: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/238401/plan-to-breed-golden-bangus-dies-with-lone-specimen (Philippine Daily Inquirer / 10:35 PM July 28, 2012)

GOLDEN-BANGUSBFAR research center Chief Westly Rosario with the “golden” bangus in April.

DAGUPAN CITY—This city’s dream to breed “golden” bangus has gone belly up.

Dr. Westly Rosario, research center chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said a rare golden bangus, notable for its bright yellow scales and fin, died on June 24 “probably because of the water quality” of its containment pond.

“The pond where the bangus was lodged was continuously pumped with sea water. But there was a problem with the pump’s water intake [valve] which was filled with sand, so water could not enter the pond,” he said.

As a result, the bangus, which weighed 1.2 kg, could have died because of the absence of dissolved oxygen, he said.

Instead of burying the golden bangus at the center’s cemetery for endangered species, specialists decided to preserve it in a jar.

The BFAR had planned to promote the golden bangus as a symbol of the milkfish industry’s revitalization.

The agency was scheduled to crossbreed the golden bangus with a silver bangus when it turns five years old, considered to be its sexual maturity age, Rosario said.

The 16-month-old bangus was donated to the BFAR by fishpond operator Ariel Fernandez of Binmaley town on May 14. Initially, the fish was kept isolated in a tank, but its keepers realized that it had turned weak and stressed, according to BFAR officials.

The golden bangus was transferred to another pond, sharing the waters with a sea bass and a few crabs. That’s where it died a month later.

The fish’s golden color was uncommon, and Rosario believed it was similar to albinism in mammals, which is a congenital disorder characterized by the absence of pigmentation on the skin, hair and irises.

The 1.2-kg fish was the first of its kind to be documented in the Philippines.

“Some people believe that the golden bangus brings good luck, so the bangus was spared,” he said.


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